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Spain set for June poll after government talks fall through

Spain is likely to call fresh elections as a deadline to form a government looks set to be breached. Despite an eleventh-hour coalition proposal, the clever money is now on new polls being called for June 26.

The leader of Spain's main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) said new elections were inevitable after a surprise last-minute coalition proposal failed with the deadline to form a government looming Tuesday.

PSOE chief Pedro Sanchez (above right) said he lacked sufficient support in parliament to seek a new confidence vote to become prime minister, as had been proposed.

"We are heading to new elections," Sanchez said after meeting King Felipe VI Tuesday.

The crisis comes to a head some 18 weeks after December elections resulted in a hung parliament, forcing the parties into talks on forming a coalition - a first for Spain since it returned to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

Hope dies last

A 30-point proposal was submitted by regional grouping Compromis Tuesday as a last-ditch attempt to form a government in the eurozone's fourth-largest economy.

But party leaders rejected it as the King was preparing to issue a statement expected to make clear whether there was any hope for a deal.

The PSOE

had reportedly accepted most of the proposals from Compromis - including measures to fight corruption and poverty - but requested that any future government be broadly socialist.

Their centrist allies Ciudadanos rejected the proposed agreement outright, while the far-left Podemos - a key player in the talks - accused the Socialists of undermining the latest bid to set up a coalition.

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (photo above left) had previously said he also lacked support to seek a parliamentary majority, thus leaving King Felipe with no solution other than to dissolve the lower house and call a new general election.

Spain's acting Prime Minister and People's Party (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy

Spain's acting Prime Minister and People's Party (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy

As it stands

The People's Party (PP) came first in the December election but its share of seats fell to 123 from 186, which was short of the 176 seats needed for a majority. The party's standing has been hit by a series of

scandals

although it retains pole position in recent opinion polls with 126 seats, or 29.5 percent of voters in a poll for El Mundo and 27.7 percent in one for El Pais.

PSOE - second in December with 90 seats - signed a pact with Albert Rivera's Ciudadanos (Citizens) party, which came fourth with 40 seats but still also falls short of a majority. The party's own polling shows it holding on to second place with 21 percent of the vote.

New group Podemos won 69 seats last time around, challenging PSOE's traditional monopoly over progressive voters. While polls earlier this month showed it ceding third place to Ciudadanos, the most recent survey for El Mundo shows it has 18.6 percent support. A shared list with the United Left gets the backing of 21.5 percent of voters.

The alternatives

The best chance for Rajoy is to gain enough seats in the new vote so that he can go into coalition alone with Ciudadanos. Alternatively, Podemos could run on a joint list with fellow leftists in Izquierda Unida, moving them into second place and giving them the upper hand in creating a broad coalition of the left with PSOE.

jbh/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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